Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m Dawn – the owner of Allsorts Clay Characters and I make personalised cake toppers and ornaments from polymer clay for a variety of special occasions. This is my side business which I work on during holidays and weekends – I am a full time Art & Design teacher. I have been doing this job for 4 years and I really enjoy encouraging young people to be creative. Prior to this, I went to art school (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee) straight from school and specialised in Textile Design. I learned all kinds of design mediums such as Digital Print, Screen Printing, Weave and Knit but I settled on traditional screen printing as I loved the smell of the print room and getting messy.
How did you first become interested in design?
I have always been crafty and creative and I think I first became interested in design from my mum and my grandparents. My mum knits and creates amazing knitted figures. My grandparents were also a huge influence, my Grampy used to paint and my Gran used to make handcrafted cards which were always so meticulous and beautiful. They were always so encouraging of myself and my sister to pick up a pencil and draw.
What do you aim to achieve with your unique style?
Lots of commissions! Only kidding – though that would be nice! I am all for being different and unique so by creating personalised toppers of special events, it allows special memories to be captured forever in clay. I love creating these toppers and would love to (eventually) do this as my full-time job.
Do you have any designers that inspire you?
There are a lot of designers from different fields who inspire me. I love jewellery design – Peter Chang is one of my favourite designers. I also really like the architect Frank Gehry. I had the privilege to live in Dundee for four years and there is a Gehry building for the Maggie’s Centre at Ninewells Hospital. I used to take a sketchbook and paint to that building to draw whilst at university. I also love photographer Tim Walker, fashion design Alexander McQueen and textile designers Timorous Beasties.
Can you describe your design process?
For my clay figures, I tend to get as much information from the client – i.e. the occasion, props, themes, clothing, facial expressions, body positions etc. I work from photographs so I ask the client to email me over as many photos as they can e.g. hairstyles / dress / clothing / bouquets / pets etc.
Then I draft up a few sketches to help me visualise what the topper could look like. I then consult the client with these sketches, allowing them to choose which design they like. Once the client has chosen their design, I start to make the topper using polymer clay and any other materials. Throughout this stage, I like to keep the client updated with progress photographs. Once the topper has been fully completed, I send over payment information, photographs to the client before it is fired and set. Toppers are then adorned with any personal messages or dates, photographed, and sent via next day delivery to the client.
How long does a piece of work take you to complete?
It really depends on the commission. A “pet portrait” can take me a few hours to complete whereas a family or wedding topper can take anywhere between 8 hours to 2 days. I really like to take my time doing these bigger toppers and try to get it as similar to the client and their wishes as possible.
What is your favourite piece to date?
I love the topper I made for my own wedding last July. It was my first big wedding topper and I wanted something different for the cake decoration. It had myself, my husband and my dog Monty on it. It was a real conversation piece and still is when people come into my house and see it sitting pride of place on the mantelpiece!
Do you have any new pieces in the pipeline?
I have a lot of commissions upcoming for 2021 & 2022. Most of these are wedding toppers and most of them had to be rescheduled unfortunately due to COVID-19 but I am excited to work on them when my client’s dates arise! I have had some wacky ideas presented to me and I love these types of commissions because it makes it more interesting for me to create.
Do you have any advice for other young designers?
Don’t give up and don’t be so hard on yourself. When I was at art school, I never thought I would be a teacher and working with clay – I hated 3D sculpture and clay with a passion! Sometimes things have a way of working themselves out so if something isn’t quite right with your craft specialism, then have a go at something else… you might surprise yourself!
Any exciting news to share?
At the moment, because I am not making many clay figurines, I have been making 100% cotton face masks which are available on my Etsy shop. I will have more printed designs coming in the next few weeks which is exciting.
Website – https://allsortsclay.co.uk/